Charles Moore's Mailbag

Drag and Drop Problems with Flash Drive, Troubleshooting a Mac with Linux, G3 Video Problems, and More

Charles Moore - 2007.03.27 - Tip Jar

Problems Dragging Files to Flash Drive on B&W G3

From Lee Shartau:

Hi Charles

Been awhile.

To refresh: I had a PowerBook G3 400 Lombard that I contend OS X 10.2.8 fried the motherboard in. Some others have had a similar problem with slot load iMacs. The only time the fan came on was during extended pinball games.

So as I have externals that use SCSI, I bought another to replace it. You thought a snow iBook would be a better option. Seems that they have an iStink problem! Not clear if this only on 12 inchers or across the board. So to question: On iMac's there is a firmware revision that must be applied first. On Apples website there is no such revision for G3/400 DVD PowerBooks.

So do I risk having same problem with 10.3.9? My old one showed screen conflict on start up - went to black and white. Resolved by going into control panel. Should I have gone back to 10.2.6?

Do I let 10.3.9 coexist on 6 GB drive or partition drive with just enough space for OS's and leave the rest for work? How much space does OS X take with enough "headroom" to apply updater files? On 040 chip drives there were smaller blocks, so upgrading the hard drive did not give as much room as expected. Any ideas appreciated.

On another matter. I thought to put important data on flash drive and carry it when away from home. I've been fooling around with a Memorex Mini TravelDrive 512 MB for months. Seems this version is not Drag and Drop, so I finally got frustrated and took it back to Future Shop. They would not refund but exchanged as though it were faulty. This unit worked fine on new iMacs and on XP and Vista in shop. But on Blue and White I would get out of room message while there was still 466.66 MB available.

I tried putting files in folder, etc. All the things Memorex support told me. Two different staffers, multi visits. So will I have same problem again? Or should I go to a Lexar drive. They seem to be the only firm who make drives that play nice with Macintosh.

OBTW I have a small zMate that has not had this problem.


Mr. Lee Shartau

Hi Lee,

I'm agnostic about any version of OS X being able to cook a motherboard. Lombards had some logic board issues and trouble with processor cache failures. OS X does tend to make machines run hotter than they would running OS 9, so the greater heat could conceivably contribute to the accelerated failure of a component that was already on the way out.

I've heard lots of reports about the stinky iBooks (some sort of smelly adhesive in the keyboard underside, if I recall). Happily my 700 MHz G3 unit, now in its fifth year of service, has not been afflicted, so it certainly isn't universal.

If Apple hasn't a firmware update for the Lombard posted on their support site, there isn't one. There is one for the Pismo.

OS X likes lots of free space on the boot drive or partition. I like to have 3 GB or more free and find that with under 2 GB free on a fresh boot, you begin to encounter slowdowns once the swapfiles start to accumulate and eat up drive space.

IMHO, OS X 10.3.9 is the optimum version for a Lombard.

I'm afraid I can't be much help with your flash drive issue. I don't have one and thus have no real experience. My daughter has one that works fine with her G4 iBook, but I don't recall the brand, and she's in Japan.


Using Linux for Troubleshooting a Mac

From Tiago Bugarin after reading Problems Troubleshooting a Slot-loading iMac:

Hi, I recommend you to try Linux before you buy any software. Xubuntu Linux is a good one for a start. It has a lightweight graphical user interface, and if it boots you can see if the hardware is okay.

Also, recently a friend bought an iBook G4 and it came with a nonfunctional hard drive. No Mac-only application could tell me why the S.M.A.R.T. returns 'OK' and every other analysis tool returns I/O problems. As the hard drive had no data to lose, I could boot a Linux CD and do a as hard as possible with permission to destroy data check and repair. For this task I choose Slackintosh [Linux] that booted to a command line only interface with no use of hardware resources and did the task.

Xubuntu for Mac can be downloaded for free at

(choose from where do you prefer to download; I recommend the 6.10 "edgy eft" version but feel free to download any one)

Slackintosh can be downloaded for free at

(as before choose the closest place to download the ISO; you will find a DVD and a set of CDs for download, as you are not intended to install Slackintosh Linux - at least I didn't understand that way - you can download only the 1st CD as it is the one that boots and has the tools for analysis, check and formatting.

This is the manual page for the badblocks program that checks the hard drive for problems.

It can just check, repair in some cases without destroying, or destroy and repair. Note that it can't repair any hard drive problems, as some are not repairable with software.

The command I used in my friends laptop was

badblocks -wvfs -t random /dev/hda

note: /dev/hda means the device (/dev) is as hard disk (hd) and is the first one (a); if the hard drive is ATA/IDE/PATA, it will be 'hd'; if it is SATA, it will be 'sd'; if it is the first one it will be 'a', the second will be 'b', and so on.

REMINDER: badblocks can be dangerous to your data; backup before use it.

Good luck!

Thanks Tiago. I've forwarded the info to Steve.


Re: Problems Troubleshooting a Slot-loading iMac

From D. Smith to help with Problems Troubleshooting a Slot-loading iMac:

Tell Steve to reseat the cable from motherboard to optical and hard drives.


Thanks Dennis.

Forwarded to Steve.


FireWire Boot Drives and Bootable Partitions

From Clint Bradford:

I am very embarrassed. I have been involved with personal computers for about a quarter century. It wasn't until last September, though, that my wife brought home a coworker's MacBook Pro - and after playing with it all night, I ordered my first Apple computer the next day.

I feel a need to create a bootable external drive for my 17" MacBook Pro (not Core 2 - purchased in 09/2006). Am I being paranoid? I found the OWC Mercury 100 MB FW800 Hitachi portable unit. But I am open to any other suggestions.

But concepts like "Install OS X onto your FireWire drive..." and "bootable partitions" are escaping me. And I have searched the Apple Support forums and used Google. Is there a "tutorial" for MacBook Pro owners for this task?

Many thanks for your columns.

Clint Bradford

"What? Clint's using a Mac???"

Hi Clint,

Having an external backup drive with a bootable installation of OS X on it can be very convenient, as can having a second operating system installed on separate partition, provided you have the free hard drive capacity.

For example, I have an external FireWire hard drive with OS X 10.3.9 installed on it from which I can boot my 17" PowerBook , my Pismo PowerBook , and my G3 iBook - useful for troubleshooting and things like running Alsoft Disk Warrior without the tedium of booting from a CD.

I also have, currently, OS X 10.4.9 installed on one of my 17" PowerBook's hard drive partitions, and OS X 10.4.8 on another partition, the tandem systems making it possible to run version updates without burning my bridges to the previous, known-stable version.

This is all "belt & suspenders", and the vast majority of Mac users just go with a single system on an unpartitioned hard drive and get along fine.

However, I've always partitioned my drives (even the little 20 MB unit of my ancient Mac Plus) and kept multiple system versions installed. I prefer external hard drives as file backup media whether they are bootable or not (FireWire ones are, USB drives are not on my pre-Intel 'Books).

For more on partitioning, see these articles:

Installing OS X on hard drive partitions or external bootable volumes (e.g.: FireWire) is just a matter of selecting the desired volume in the installer dialog.

You can select the startup volume you want to boot from using the Startup Disk system preferences panel or just hold down the Option key at startup.

Hope this helps.


How Do I Know if an External FireWire DVD Drive Is Bootable?

From James Glasscock in response to Installing OS X 10.4 'Tiger' on DVD-challenged Macs Using FireWire Target Disk Mode:

I've just read your article with interest. I've got an iBook (G3/800, FireWire, CD) and have a FireWire LaCie Porche DVDr. How do I know if that's "bootable" or not?


Hi James,

It should be, although I can't give you 100 percent certainty. The way to test is to connect the DVD drive, insert the OS X 10.4 install DVD or just a CD (like your iBook's System Restore CD) in the drive, and try to boot from it (hold down the C key while booting).

Installing from an external FireWire DVD drive is a much more satisfactory way of installing OS X than using the Target Disk Mode workaround.


Solving Video Problems on a B&W G3

From Larry Stotler in response to Video Problems with B&W Power Mac:

Jack Curry's problems running video on his 500 MHz B&W probably have two causes:

  1. The overclocking could be causing the CPU to skip, since video playing can be pretty CPU intensive. If he's using an MP4 codec like DivX, the CPU has to do all the work, and the Radeon's MPEG2 decoder won't be utilized.
  2. It's a G3. I've had issues with video playback under Linux using MPlayer on a G3. Swapping in a G4 of similar speed greatly cleans up the frame drop issue. My G3-AIO has a G4/350 running at 366, and it skips a little playing XviD movies due to the fact that I can't get the L2 cache working yet (BTW, if you know anything about using ResEdit, I could use some pointers). When I had the same chip in a B&W running at 400 MHz, video playback was smooth as silk (New World machines see the G4's L2, whereas I can't get BootX to see it on my Old World ones yet). When I had a G3/466 in my WallStreet, playback stuttered. I'm planning on a G4 upgrade eventually, and I'll bet that fixes it. Why? AltiVec, of course. I don't know what playback program he was using, but he could try MPlayer for OS X to see if that helps.


Thanks Larry.

Forwarded to Jack.


Re: Maximum Hard Drive Size for Older Macs

From Amir Rifczes in response to Maximum Hard Drive Size for Older Macs:

Again - thanks a lot for all the effort and info. I walked to three places in Los Angeles, and in all of them could not find the detailed info you have just provided me. I did manage to get my hands on a used 1 GB internal SCSI [drive] - I now have to "crack" it open and install the System 7.6 and whatever applications I have.

Again thanks a lot for the info.


You're welcome.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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